Congratulations! You are the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender once again, how are you feeling ahead of CHI Geneva? Which horse do you plan to compete with in the Rolex Grand Prix?
I am feeling confident ahead of CHI Geneva. My horses have been in good shape over the last couple of weeks. I am really looking forward to Geneva as it is a fantastic show, and I have some fantastic memories from past experiences there. I realise that it will be difficult to win this Grand Prix again, but I definitely have a chance this year. So in the lead up, I am taking it easy.
What have you been up to since winning the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at CSIO Spruce Meadows in September, and how have you been preparing yourself and your horses for CHI Geneva?
With your best horses you are always trying to make the best plan. When thinking of CHI Geneva, I have two horses that come into consideration – Killer Queen [VDM] and Tobago [Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z]. Killer Queen had a couple of weeks off after the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, where she jumped fantastically. I think that she is back in shape and now she feels good. Over the next two weeks, I do not have a show so I will hopefully bring both horses very fresh to Geneva.
I do not really have a plan yet, I still need to make decisions regarding who I am going to jump in the Rolex Grand Prix, and which horse I will use for the Grand Prix qualifier. A lot of this depends on my feelings during the last training week before we leave for Geneva. It will allow me to observe and assess how the horses are feeling. Maybe one will remain a little too fresh that they need to start with a small class and maybe one will be ready to go straight into a big class. Until now, I have had a very good feeling with both of the horses, they both feel very happy and sound, so I am really looking forward to Geneva.
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary next year – how big an impact has it had on the sport?
With the Rolex Grand Slam, the four shows have created an important source of motivation in our sport. They have created something that is very unique, with an exclusive format that to this day cannot be rivalled. It really pushes the sport to another level, as before you only had one championship at the end of the season. However, nowadays, all show jumpers look to the Rolex Grand Slam, and treat the four shows as four championships throughout the year. It is a fantastic format. Everybody knows how difficult it is to achieve the Rolex Grand Slam. In 2015, Scott Brash achieved it but this is already seven years ago. Since then, no one has come close to achieving this, but during each season all show jumpers aim to do so. I think that this shows the incredible role of the Rolex Grand Slam.
How important is it for a show jumper to keep learning in this sport??
I worked for Franke Sloothaak over the period of four and a half years. He was a top rider for some time, and I learnt a lot from him. To this day, I am still in contact with him regularly. I still learn from him, as he tends to visit every once in a while. I have to say that mentoring programmes may be a bit different to this now but I am actively looking out for successful riders, even younger ones in the arena during show jumping competitions. In a show jumper’s career, no matter how long one has been doing it for, there is still so much to learn, as every animal is different. Their characters change, and riders must constantly adapt and learn to be able to handle or communicate with different horses. And even with my own experience, every year with my horses, I incorporate new trainings with new and old horses for us to constantly learn and improve. It is important to constantly keep learning in this sport, and to observe and study other riders.
What does your diet and nutrition plan look like? How important is diet and nutrition to your overall training programme?
To be honest, I really do not have to monitor my weight, as I am very tall and slim. I think the most important thing in terms of nutrition, is that one has to be aware that the goal is to feel physically fit and comfortable. Obviously, everyone has to adapt their nutrition to themselves and to their body type. As I said, I am a very tall person, which I do not really think is always an advantage in the saddle. In terms of my weight, I am very lucky that I can still enjoy food and eat whatever I fancy as my weight is easy to manage.
I really try to take the time to do a lot of stretching exercises so my body can remain flexible. Being a tall rider has some disadvantages, and flexibility is a bit of a challenge for me compared to shorter riders. It is important to continually work on flexibility. In our sport, one sits in the saddle for hours at a time, and this is a position where one’s muscles, certainly in the legs, gain strength.
Away from show jumping, how do you relax? What do you love to do?
Nowadays, if I am not training my horses, and not attending a show, I try and spend as much time with my family and young daughter. Before her, I would relax by watching a movie or going on bike rides in the evenings but now that has changed with her around. We take her to hockey training once a week and that is fun. So, yes, I try and spend time with my family.
My wife and daughter play a bit part in my life, and in my overall success in show jumping. There is a lot of travelling when we compete, and this means I am not at home for long periods of time, so people around me need to support and understand my sport and lifestyle. They certainly do this. I am really lucky with my family, as Caroline came from a show jumping background, as well, and is very supportive.
If you weren't a professional show jumper, what would you be doing? Are there any professional sports men who you idolise?
I really do not know what I would be doing if I was not a show jumper. I know for certainty that it would be something to do with the outdoors and that would involve a lot of physical activity. I could not visualise myself sitting in an office throughout the day. It would most likely have been another sport. When I was younger, I played a lot of sports such as tennis, and even rode BMXs.
What would be the perfect day? What would it look like from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep?
My perfect day would be waking up on the Sunday morning of CHI Geneva, and discovering my horses feel great, and then go on to win the Rolex Grand Prix!
What is your favourite holiday that you have been on? Do you find it easy to relax, or do you have to stay active?
It is really hard for me to decide on a favourite one because I have had some amazing summer and winter holidays. When I am away on holiday, I have to stay active. When we were in the Mauritius, I had to do some sort of water sport to ensure that I was doing some physical movement. I cannot spend a couple of days lying still on the beach. This is why I love going on skiing holidays, as you are outdoors and active all day long.